Some Hamiltonians may be receiving a little extra money with the basic income pilot’s first run underway.

The pilot program was introduced in April 2017 and is currently being held in Hamilton, Lindsay and Thunder Bay. Eligible individuals could receive $17,000 a year. Those in couples may receive up to $24,000 a year.

The program is set to last three years so that the government may study its effects before deciding to implement it province-wide. The effects will be studied by a third-party team of researchers, which includes McMaster experts and academics.

Basic income is a form of social security where the government offers a small sum of money to all those eligible once a month in order to ensure families are able to afford basic necessities. If implemented throughout the city, all those eligible will receive a cheque, which the government feels is simpler than the current social assistance programs where individuals must apply.

The program hopes to alleviate major stressors that affect vulnerable workers, improve health and education for those living on low incomes. The program will be measured in terms of improvements in fields such as, but not limited to, food security, housing stability, education and training, employment and healthcare.

The history of basic income is one fraught with successes and failures. When first introduced in the United States in the 1960s, it came under fire from a multitude of groups whose criticisms ranged from lowering workers’ morale to distracting focus away from improving infrastructure. The results of the first pilot program in the United States during the Nixon administration found its results to be inconclusive.

Meanwhile in Canada, the Manitoba National Democratic Party, in conjunction with the incumbent Liberal government, launched a pilot program, which had successes in Winnipeg and Dauphin from 1974 to 1979. Critics still held reservations, though, and the program was abandoned.

One of the main critiques of basic income stems from its shift in focus from austerity measures that would shift wealth within the country. On the other side, other critics argue that basic income would reduce the drive for people to work.

The program hopes to alleviate major stressors that affect vulnerable workers, improve health and education for those living on low incomes.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is largely in favour of the program, arguing it will assuage the burden placed on those living on lower incomes, especially with respect to healthcare.

“Of these social determinants of health, the most influential is income. Income is often referred to as the ‘determinant of the determinants’ because it influences access to other essentials for good health, such as where people can afford to live and how far they can go in school,” argued physicians Ryan Meili and Danielle Martin in an essay for the CCPA’s report on basic income.

In addition, the same report found argued that a basic income would improve the livelihoods of seasonal workers, who largely make up the rural workers in Canada.

“Overall, a basic income promises to help us come to terms with our economy and job market as they actually exist — not as they exist in the imaginations of orthodox and neoliberal economists — seasonal fluctuations and all,” argued Karen Foster, a sociology professor at Trent University, in the same report.

Meanwhile, the Northern Policy Institute argues that the policy, while effective in alleviating some stressors, will not sufficiently pull people out of poverty, which is the main goal of the basic income program.

“Consequently, it makes no sense to eliminate other social programs that have more specific goals, such as healthcare, job training, subsidized daycare and so on. Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan are self-financed and serve very specific purposes in the economy — insuring against short-term job loss, and saving for retirement,” read the report.

As the program rolls out, only time will tell whether or not basic income can solve all the problems that it hopes to.

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